By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (ACP-IDN) – The Hubs and Spokes Programme, an innovative trade initiative for expanding opportunities for business, employment and prosperity in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, is to be extended until February 2019.
Through the Programme, which is a joint initiative of the European Union (EU), ACP Group Secretariat, Commonwealth Secretariat and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), trade advisers are placed in government ministries and regional organisations to provide support and build local capacity to develop trade policies.
With 2017 shaping up to be an uncertain year for global trade, Chekou Oussouman, head of the Hub and Spokes Programme at the OIF, says the long-term technical assistance provided by the programme has given credibility to the partnership among the Commonwealth, OIF, European Commission and the ACP Secretariat which have responded to requests from the ACP regions for the deployment of a network of high-level advisers on trade policies.
“Beyond the reforms undertaken to make trade a lever for growth and successful structural transformation, several countries and regions have been involved in the ownership of the programme’s efforts and have also contributed to the financing of activities,” according to Oussouman.
“Thus, the consolidation phase of the programme will enable key structuring activities to be transferred appropriately to the beneficiaries.”
The first stage of the programme, Hub and Spokes I, ran from 2004 to 2012. The second phase, Hub and Spokes II, ended on 27 May 2017. The new consolidation phase will extend the programme until at least February 2019.
To kick-start the ambitious next phase of the aid for trade programme, 40 of the programme’s main stakeholders, including 16 trade advisers, held a workshop here from May 22 to 23, giving participants the opportunity to review the changing trade landscape, exchange best practices and establish a sustainable foundation for the design of national and regional trade policies.
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said the Caribbean workshop presented an ideal opportunity to learn from regional experiences to ensure that developing countries and small and vulnerable states are not left behind.
“The Hub and Spokes programme is helping countries to use trade as a mechanism to advance human development and create prosperity,” said Maharaj. “It has been an invaluable resource for Commonwealth member countries and in particular for small and capacity-constrained states.
“The work undertaken by these trade experts is second to none, ensuring that countries can effectively participate in global trade and that trade policies deliver on national development priorities.”
During the recent 8th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), stressed the role of the developmental state in fostering trade and investment growth that is inclusive, sustainable and equitable, including through empowering gender and youth.
Kituyi highlighted the powerful role of technology in connecting the rural poor to mainstream economic development and finance, including through mobile telephony.
He added that persistent and new challenges necessitate a fundamental re-thinking and re-positioning of ACP Group toward more intra-ACP trade, investment and political dialogue and collaboration and greater attention to South-South cooperation in general as a complement to the North-South relations that have dominated ACP attention since the formation of the group 40 years ago.
These included the rise of mega-regionals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, decline in traditional preferences and transition towards more reciprocal agreements such as Economic Partnership Agreements, and the challenge of migration faced by traditional donor partners like the EU.
Such intra-ACP revival is all the more important to harness and unleash the combined economic knowledge, skills, resources and cultures of ACP states to face up to the challenge of implementing Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Closer ACP collaboration is particularly apt in the case of LDCs and Small Island Developing States in addressing global challenge of climate change, rising sea levels and natural disasters and putting in place development strategies that are climate friendly and environmentally resilient.
Six regional advisers – the hubs – and 16 national advisers – the spokes – are currently deployed by the Commonwealth Secretariat under the Hub and Spokes Programme.
The OIF has also deployed 4 hubs and 16 spokes in Africa, resulting in a total of 10 hubs and 32 spokes deployed under the programme.
Advisers are placed in the following countries and regional organisations:
Eastern and Central Africa: Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, African Union (AU) Commission, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariat, East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat;
Western and Central Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Islamic Republic of Mauritania, The Ivory Coast, Mali, Republic of Niger, Republic of Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Eastern Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS/CEEAC), Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA);
Pacific: Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 June 2017]
Photo: To kick-start the ambitious next phase of Hub and Spokes, an aid for trade initiative, 40 of the programme’s main stakeholders including 16 trade advisers met in Bridgetown, Barbados, between May 22 and 23, 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown | IDN-INPS.
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